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Sunday, October 24
All-Century Team introduced before World Series tonight

ATLANTA (Ticker) -- After hawking his signature for a few hours, Pete Rose returned to baseball tonight, and the fans at Turner Field were happy to have him back.

Rose was among the members of Major League Baseball's All-Century Team introduced in a simple, dignified ceremony prior to Game Two of the World Series between the Atlanta Braves and New York Yankees.

All 18 living players on the 30-member team were present and only hometown hero Hank Aaron received a louder and longer ovation than Rose, the all-time hits leader who took part in an officially sanctioned event for the first time in over 11 years.

Then-Commissioner Bart Giamatti banned Rose on August 24, 1989 following a long probe into gambling by the former Cincinnati Reds manager. Commissioner Bug Selig allowed Rose to participate but has no plans on lifting the ban that has kept Rose out of the Hall of Fame.

No special attention was given to Rose, but the Turner Field crowd, aware of the significance of his appearance, warmly applauded "Charley Hustle."

"I'm a small part of a big deal tonight," Rose said afterwards.

The fans saved a warm greeting for Aaron, the all-time home runs leader who passed Babe Ruth 25 years ago at Fulton County Stadium. Aaron later threw out the ceremonial first pitch to conclude the ceremony.

"For one brief shining moment, this is Camelot," said Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully, the master of ceremonies.

Rose vehemently has denied betting on baseball, often in arrogant fashion, and did so again in a heated interview with NBC broadcaster Jim Gray after the ceremony.

"I'm not going to admit to something that didn't happen," said Rose, who earlier in the night appeared to use the occasion to offer an olive branch.

"I would do anything in my power to change what has happened in the last 10 years. I would," Rose said. "But I can't change what has happened. You know how I feel. You have to know I'm sorry."

A lightning rod of controversy to begin with, Rose added more fuel to the fire. He skipped a media session this afternoon in order to appear at a card show in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He signed items for a fee before catching a late-afternoon flight to Atlanta.

Among the All-Century members most critical of Rose was Johnny Bench, his former teammate on the Reds. Bench believes Rose deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, but should admit that he gambled on baseball, something Rose has refused to do.

"This country's a great place where people say they're sorry and get a second chance. Pete hasn't done that," Bench said. "I would beg him to get out there and just say, `I'm sorry.' He belongs in the Hall of Fame."

On Saturday, Selig refused comment on Rose's appearance at the card show, and other members of the All-Century Team tried to shy away from the controversy.

"I'm not going to answer that question for a cheap quote," pitcher Bob Gibson said. "You want me to get into trouble? All I can tell you is Pete was a great competitor. Numbers speak for themselves."

Rose finished ninth in the fan voting among outfielders, earning the final spot at the position. Taking advantage of the national stage, Rose asked that Selig reconsider the lifetime ban.

"I hope they look at my reinstatement. Even Charles Manson gets a hearing once a year," Rose said. "I think today I'm the best ambassador baseball has."

Among the individuals captivated by tonight's ceremony were current members of the Braves and Yankees, who applauded as warmly as the fans.

"We are here to honor the players at a precious moment, a moment we will not relive in our lifetime," Selig added.

Current Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens, who is not scheduled to pitch until Game Four, took part of the ceremony, wearing a suit and tie. All of the other All-Century members were dressed in similar fashion except St. Louis first baseman Mark McGwire, who looked out of place in a leather jacket, jeans and sneakers.

A touching moment saw 81-year-old Ted Williams being helped to his chair by two other team members, Willie Mays and Ken Griffey Jr.

As announced on Saturday, legendary players were at the top of the list as voted by fans, with Lou Gehrig narrowly edging Ruth to finish first overall. Aaron was third, followed by Williams, Mays, Bench and Joe DiMaggio.

Among the 25 players elected by fans were four active stars -- Clemens, McGwire, Seattle outfielder Griffey and Baltimore shortstop Cal Ripken.

The Yankees are well-represented, with Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra joining Gehrig, Ruth and DiMaggio.

The All-Century Team consists of two players at each infield position, two catchers, six pitchers and nine outfielders.

Five additional players were added by a special panel chosen to compensate for oversights in fan voting. Those were pitchers Lefty Grove, Christy Mathewson and Warren Spahn, shortstop Honus Wagner and outfielder Stan Musial.

Spahn, the former Braves star, threw out the first pitch before Game One.

The list of 100 players on the ballot was announced at the All-Star break. Voting took place at major league ballparks, baseball's Web site, retail outlets and MasterCard promotional inserts from July 13-September 10.

Gehrig, baseball's Iron Man before being surpassed by Ripken, was tops among first baseman with 1,207,992 votes, more than double the total of McGwire at the position.

Ruth led outfielders and was followed by Aaron, the all-time home run leader. Others elected at the position were Aaron, Ty Cobb, DiMaggio, Griffey, Mantle, Mays, Rose and Williams.

Nolan Ryan, the all-time strikeout leader, was the leading vote-getter among pitchers and was elected to the team along with Gibson, Sandy Koufax, Cy Young and Walter Johnson.

Bench and Berra are the All-Century catchers.

Currently a third baseman, Ripken led all shortstops in voting and was followed by Ernie Banks.

Mike Schmidt and Brooks Robinson are the third basemen on the list. The second basemen were players from earlier eras -- Jackie Robinson and Rogers Hornsby.

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